I was in a meeting recently and one of my young friends heard me say that I created a twelve step program for Rescuers.  He asked for a copy and I looked back at my first writing.  I think I may have grown a bit since that 1987 version, so I offer the updated ongoing version in this post today.  Enjoy and let me know what you think about it!

Rescuer’s Anonymous—a “tongue-in-cheek” twelve step recovery program for burnt-out capital R Rescuers, by Marjorie R. Barlow, Ph.D.  (first written in 1987, revised in 2013).

Step One:

I face it!  I am powerless over an addictive urge to offer help whenever someone expresses a need, a want, or a negative feeling.  I admit this addiction and also admit that, at that moment, my life is out of control and unmanageable.

Step Two:

I believe God is Love–the powerful Life Force that is Benevolent and Good.  I further believe that this Life Force can restore me to sanity, helping me know when to offer help and when to withdraw or lovingly ignore someone else’s problem.

Step Three:

I choose to be mindful and aware of my Higher Self, making a firm decision to keep an open mind, open heart, and open will as I make my decisions regarding others who appear in Victim mode.  I have also learned about the seductive power of the Victim role for a Rescuer.  In the addiction to Rescuing,  I “came alive” whenever I heard someone express a need!  Rescuing can become a way to be in relationship.  The roles are clear and well defined.

 Step Four:

I take inventory daily of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I call this “Merciless Self-Awareness.”

 Step Five:

I take full and complete responsibility for the creation of my own life.  My Beliefs, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors are my own.  I admit to my self and my Higher Self the nature of my mistaken “rescue-itis” and I acknowledge my previous neurotic need for Victims.  I humbly offer amends to anyone I might have harmed in the process of my past behavior.

 Step Six:

I appeal to all that is High and Holy to remove these false beliefs.  I am ready to live without the thrill or the trap of Rescuing.  I can be in relationship with another person without falling into the trap of playing psychological games from the Persecutor, Rescuer, or Victim roles.

My personal test for this is:  When tempted to help someone, I first ask myself if they have asked for my help.  If the answer is no then, I listen and empathize ONLY.  Second, I ask myself if this is something I really want to do and not something I think I should do.  If it is a should, I refrain and continue to be an effective listener or I politely leave the conversation.  Third, I ask myself if this is an imbalanced relationship.  If I am in the helper role more than half the time, I question my motives.  (Sometimes I help 90% but when the person gets back on their path, they are equal and can give back to me.)  This is not really a scorekeeping, just a reminder of how I have been “used up” in the past.  To the level that any of my motivation is a neurotic character defect born of the ego, I again apply merciless self-awareness.  I am willing to face who really owns the problem.

Step Seven:

Since I believe that my every thought is, in effect, a prayer, I humbly ask my Higher Nature to remove my shortcomings.

Step Eight:

I do a life review, noticing where I might have harmed another person, keeping them in the Victim role.  I pray for forgiveness. and, when it seems right to do, I talk with them about it.

Step Nine:

When it seems right to do, I make direct amends in a conversation with my former Victims.  I recognize that I may have Rescued at the social level but that I often felt tired and used up, therefore I was a Victim at the Psychological level.  I further admit that I have thought many Persecutory thoughts about my Victims.  I make amends only when it is not injurious to others.

Step Ten:

In daily life, I continue to notice my actions, my thoughts, and my feelings, taking stock every day.  I am the Author, the Actor, and the Audience of my Life Story.  I daily compose the action and at night, I review what has transpired, gently moving toward the Authentic self I desire to be.  Self Forgiveness, Self Love, Self Acceptance are the primary curriculum.

Step Eleven:

Through prayer and meditation, I seek to be in close contact with All That Is– my Higher Self.  Meditating, Presencing, Imagining the Future that wants to emerge is my chosen pathway.

Step Twelve:

My own spiritual journey is an ever expanding, broadening spiral of consciousness.  My addiction to Rescuing was in an ASLEEP state.  I practice the principles of Awareness-Awakeness-Aliveness-Attracting-Allowing and pushing toward the edges of my Authentic Selfhood at every moment.  To the level others seems interested in my journey, I share what I have learned.